Copenhagen Brings Interest From Opposite Sides

(AP Photo )
An international conference in a European country involving complicated science and nearly 200 oft-competing agendas doesn't seem like the sort of thing that would generate a ton of eyeballs on U.S. news sites. But the two week U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen kicking off today seems to be garnering serious attention, at least for a story that doesn't involve a certain allegedly adulterous golfer: The words "Copenhagen" and "Climategate" both appeared in Google's "hot topics" this morning, right alongside Tiger, bowl games, Saturday Night Live and Facebook.

The interest is coming, it's fair to assume, primarily from two groups: Those who believe climate change is man-made and real – and are interested in whether international leaders make progress on addressing the issue – and those who believe that, in the words of Homer Simpson, "it's all a load of crap."

The former camp includes the vast majority of climate scientists as well as the residents of low-lying nations like the Maldives, where government ministers recently held a cabinet meeting underwater to stress the possibility that, due to rising water levels brought on by global warming, their country could soon disappear into the sea.

The latter, meanwhile, includes skeptics, most of them conservative, who have seized on the recent so-called "Climategate" story to defend their position that global warming is a myth grounded in a conspiracy being perpetrated by scientists and activists around the world.

Former vice president and climate activist Al Gore – a charter member of the first camp – is meeting today with President Obama to discuss climate change at the White House. In an example of just how polarized the issue has become, two conservative members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are reportedly calling for the Oscar Gore won for the environmental documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" to be rescinded in the wake of the Climategate e-mails.

Those e-mails are not expected to have a tremendous impact on the participants in Copenhagen, who overwhelmingly accept the scientific consensus about global warming. And while the e-mails themselves "don't provide proof that human-caused climate change is a lie or a swindle," as the Washington Post reports, they do cast scientists in a political light and give fodder to those who argue against global warming.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll last month found that the percentage of Americans who believe global warming is happening fell eight points last month to 72 percent; growing public opposition to addressing the issue could undermine efforts in Congress to pass climate change legislation. Just 54 percent of Republicans now say global warming is taking place, and just 25 percent of adults think most scientists agree on the issue, despite the consensus in the scientific community.

For a good primer on the issues at play in Copenhagen, check out this New York Times story that lays out the various battles going on at the conference – between rich and poor nations, developed and developing nations and others. (Here's a similar piece from Politico.) And if you want a better sense of the contentious nature of the battle between the believers and the skeptics, check out the top story on CBSNews.com, a blog post from Charles Cooper – which features an exchange between opponants that ends with the words, "what an asshole."

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